By Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape Ministry of Health:
Over the weekend, the Minister of Health in the Western Cape, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, visited a volunteer programme hosted by University of Cape Town medical students who provide free primary care to Manenberg residents who are unable to visit a healthcare facility during work hours.
SHAWCO is an old organisation which enjoys the support of many private sector partners who assist these volunteer students to deliver this crucial service.
Seeing students use their medical training for the good of communities like Manenberg is the reason why it is essential that as a government we expand opportunities for as many young people as possible so that they can access quality education and training in the health field.
One of the Department of Health’s key targets is to broaden the base and increase the number of medical students in the Western Cape with specific emphasis on rural areas.
We are investing R79 million during this current financial year on bursaries for all health sciences students.
The multi-lateral and bilateral agreements signed with the four main university institutions in the Western Cape, namely, Cape Town, Western Cape, Stellenbosch and Cape Peninsula University of Technology is to ensure access of qualifying students to training opportunities in the Western Cape Health Service. It furthermore provides for high standard clinical training and for joint clinical appointments.
These arrangements also incentivises and encourages the sharing of government clinical Service Platforms, resources, clinical training and teaching through these training Institutions to enable the Department to achieve optimal health outcomes through well-trained health professionals.
In the past three years, we have granted 613 undergraduate medical students, of which 125 were new intakes. 90% of these were awarded to students from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.
We have also initiated a process with both the medical schools (US and UCT) to develop strategies to significantly increase the intake of MB ChB students at these two universities. This will require innovative approaches from both the Department and the Universities.
We are seized with the idea of producing ‘home-grown’ medical doctors who understand the particular burden of disease that the South African population is faced with and have been exposed to clinical contexts outside large hospitals. To this effect we have 50 students training full time in the rural services, soon to be expanded. In the city environment, students train on platforms such as Khayelitsha Hospital, Community Health Centres and other primary healthcare services. Curriculum reforms have allowed students to be trained in holistic patient care, engaging with the realities of patients living environments.
The challenges of the healthcare system are vast and complex, we need medical doctors who understand the South African disease profile in its entirety to meet these demands, doctors who have insight into multidisciplinary approaches and are trained alongside nurses and physiotherapists, pharmacists and specialists.
In addition, investing in the training of medical doctors from specifically from , and in rural areas will go a long way in levelling the playing field and achieve true and sustainable universal coverage, access and equity to health services.